RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The latest legal effort to force Virginia House of Delegates elections this year under new legislative districts was dismissed by a federal judge Monday, all but assuring that state delegates will serve full terms.
U.S. District Judge David J. Novak has overseen two cases that have sought 2022 elections, one from activist Paul Goldman and another from author Jeff Thomas, Loudoun County NAACP president Rev. Michelle C. Thomas and the local chapter’s former president, attorney Phillip Thompson.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia sided with state lawyers in the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, dismissing both lawsuits for lack of standing.
On July 21, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Eastern District of Virginia’s ruling dismissing Goldman’s lawsuit and Novak granted the state’s motion to dismiss Thomas’ case on Aug. 1. Unlike Goldman, J. Thomas told 8News he does not intend to appeal the ruling.
The latest lawsuit filed by J. Thomas and later amended to include Rev. Thomas and Thompson argues the 2021 Virginia House elections were held under outdated districts and that their votes were diluted as a result.
“Taking away people’s rights seems to be what federal courts are doing these days, consistent with today’s radical reinterpretation of the long-settled right to one-person one-vote,” J. Thomas said in a statement to 8News. “It’s not surprising: it’s straight politics.”
The lawsuit sought to have the Eastern District of Virginia set one-year terms for the current state delegates that end in January and order special elections this November using the state’s new legislative districts updated with new census data.
The attorney general’s office — under both Democrat Mark Herring and his Republican successor Jason Miyares — defended Virginia’s elections commissioner and the state board of elections in the cases.
“I’m glad that the court once again agreed with my office, that there is no more uncertainty for voters and legislators, and that we were able to protect the integrity and validity of our 2021 elections,” Attorney General Miyares said in a statement.
The attorney general’s office argued the plaintiffs lack standing to bring the case forward because they did not challenge a new map that would be used in an upcoming election that shows “an ongoing or future injury in fact,” but instead claimed the map used last year was unconstitutional.
In both redistricting cases, state lawyers argued that the 2021 Virginia House elections were constitutional because the state was required to use the “best population data available” and new census data arrived too late to redraw the districts.
“Plaintiffs claim as their injury a dilution of their votes stemming from an election held under allegedly unconstitutional maps,” Novak wrote in his ruling. “A review of the timeline — as stipulated by the parties — clearly demonstrates that Defendants shoulder none of the blame for any allegedly illegal election.”
This story is developing. Stay with 8News for updates.